“Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
But if thou live rememb’red not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.”
—William Shakespeare, Sonnet 3
In a little over a week’s time, I will turn 35, with no fanfare nor any expectation of surprise. At some unnumbered age, a grown man should be embarrassed to harbor any hope of anyone making a fuss over his birthday (other than maybe his mother). Eventually, a man must realize age isn't just a number to be celebrated with cake and candles. Age is something much more.
That’s when a man stops counting the inevitable drawdown of his youth and begins to take stock of his life beyond the ticking of the clock. His memories begin to defy any linear timeline, jumping to and fro, woven and rewoven in the reflections of his mind. Past, present and future revise one another, until his age becomes less a number and more a relationship to those he loves most.
This year, I stumbled upon the strange realization that I am now the age I always wanted to be. Though my childhood was in many ways blessed, I never really enjoyed being young. I always wanted to be older.
I never had an exact number in mind – at 15 I wasn’t exactly longing to be 35 – I just had this sense that I was still not quite the age I wanted to be. Now, finally, I feel that my fated age has arrived.
Yet, even as the anxiety of my youth started to fade, a new unease arose: I had somehow forgotten, not just my youth’s anxiety, but my youth altogether!
I found it nearly impossible to conjure up any happy memories of childhood. Forgetting myself, I feared I was sure to be forgotten by others. I could only grasp occasional glimpses of the happy past, always clouded by a heavy fog of pain, resentment, and loss. Holidays were the worst, especially the week of Thanksgiving, which also meant the week of my mother’s birthday.
Mom would have been 62 this Nov. 22nd.
Strange as it may sound, I always manage to remember her birthday by recalling it fell on the same day John F. Kennedy was supposedly assassinated by the CIA. Just as America forever changed on Nov. 22, 1963 – innocence lost and cynicism gained with more questions than answers – so too did Mom’s birthday forever change when she succumbed to brain cancer eight years ago. A day of celebration became a day to remember my mother, Carole.
Until recently, I would always have trouble remembering beyond her tragic final days, back to the joys of the youth she gave me, a youth I always intended to outgrow but never forget.
But try as I might, I couldn’t help forgetting and feeling forgotten. Despair born of grief is a disease of blindness.
The good news is that gratitude can replace the worst of griefs if you are willing and able to receive it. Time does heal all wounds, even the oldest.
But time’s medicine, much like age, is much more than just a number. Time only heals when you start the clock on something, or someone, new – when memories of past, present, and future find a new mirror for reflection.
When my brother first told me his wife was pregnant, I was gobsmacked. When he told me they would be waiting until the day of birth to know whether it was a boy or girl, I was proud (in my mind, gender reveal parties are almost as bad as grown men demanding birthday celebrations). But when my brother told me that if it was a baby girl, she would be given Mom’s name, I felt the heavy fog that had blinded me for so long begin to fall from my eyes.
Lucy Carole Clark was born on Oct. 3, 2023. She is undoubtedly the mirror image of her mother and father, but she is also a reflection of her grandmother – with her grandmother’s nose in miniature – one that “calls back the April of her prime.”
A remarkable thing has occurred since little Lucy was born.
The family, myself included, are starting to recall the joys of a youth we set aside with the drawdown of age. Time has started over. Life long lost to the troubles of living feels alive again. Stories keep pouring out, effortlessly, like lightning strikes in the mind. Flashes of my earliest moments with family come to life anew – my tatters rewoven by grace into gratitude.
Yes, a grown man should be utterly embarrassed to suggest he or anyone else should make a big fuss over his birthday, especially if he is a foolish bachelor turning 35, but any man worthy of his fated age should always rejoice in the birth of new life and new family.
Indeed, if a man wishes to celebrate birthdays year after year without a trace of any shame, he should conceive of more than his own conception and extend his family name.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email [email protected].
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.